17 Time-Wasters for the ESL Classroom

Waste time in the ESL classroom!

No lesson plan? No worries. Try these tried and true Time-Wasters in the classroom today!

1. Ball of Fun

Bring ball (use a student's sock if not available). Ask “How are you?” to a student and throw the ball at him/her. Student answers and then asks the same question to another student while throwing the ball. Repeat for 60 minutes. Restart from beginning when ball is dropped.

2. Photocopier Murder Mystery

Tell students you have to make a few photocopies. Leave and do not return.

3. Hangman

Play hangman with serial number of classroom computer monitor.

4. Writing in Chains

Ask students to individually begin writing a short story on a set topic. After five minutes, students swap stories and continue their classmate's story. Continue for 12 cycles. Once complete, place stories into garbage.

5. Real Listening

Talk about yourself for 60 minutes.

6. Chalk Hunting

One student is selected to be the Chalk Hunter. Everyone closes their eyes. During this time, the teacher slips a piece of chalk in someone's mouth, who becomes the “Chalk Keeper”. The Chalk Hunter must locate the chalk, asking students questions such as “does the Chalk Keeper have brown hair?”, before it melts inside the Chalk Keeper's mouth.

7. Country Debate

Students give presentations on their home country. Afterwards, students debate which country is the worst.

8. Student-Centered Teaching

Put students in groups. Assign each group pages of the textbook to teach. When groups are ready, sit at the back of the classroom. While students present their lessons, alternate between texting friends and sleeping.

9. Full-time Loser

Write names of school staff on the board followed by the word Loser with a question mark. Without mentioning their objective, students then interview staff to find out who the biggest loser is in the building.

10. Real Shopping

Write your shopping list on the board. Send students out to purchase the items for you in the neighbourhood using real English.

11. Creative Story-Telling

In groups, have students build a story incorporating several thought-provoking objects you have brought to class (if unavailable, use ripped pieces of tissue).

12. Conspiracy Hunt

Write “Conspiracy theory” on board. Handout copies of the newspaper.

13. Pair-Pear-Peer teaching

In this PPP lesson plan, write the words pair, pear, and peer on the board. In pairs, pupils peer teach the words. Provide a pear to the perfect pair.

14. Verb Selecting Game

Write 20 verbs on the board. Each student picks one verb. Once this is completed, move on to next activity.

15. Hidden Item

A student selects an item from his or her pencil case and places it under a hat. Other students continue their work until the item is revealed somehow by accident.

16. Nervous Breakdown

Feign a nervous breakdown for thirty minutes. Afterwards, students write a reflection paragraph.

17. Watch Friends

(Especially the one where Joey and Chandler get a duck)

Contributed by Ron Jenkins & Yarzeus Lapelles of Englishcurrent.com (copyright)

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9 comments on “17 Time-Wasters for the ESL Classroom

  1. Irina (Posted on 8-1-2018 at 20:46) Reply

    I expected to read some serious stuff, but it’s way better! I had a good laugh) My favourite is # 2, 4, 5, & 14. So witty.

  2. Arnold Ronning (Posted on 8-10-2018 at 13:59) Reply

    These are dreadful! Not that I never find myself scrambling when my 55-minute lesson plan is over in twenty-five minutes….

  3. Daisy E (Posted on 4-25-2019 at 14:19) Reply

    laughed until I cried!!!

  4. Katie (Posted on 5-13-2019 at 10:32) Reply

    Have each student come up to the front individually to give an answer, and call it student interaction

  5. Anonymous (Posted on 9-21-2019 at 21:22) Reply

    It’s seems perfect for a training center LOL

  6. SuziB (Posted on 11-15-2019 at 07:25) Reply


  7. Jay (Posted on 10-21-2020 at 10:23) Reply

    This is so funny. I was reading this while thinking, “they got me”.

  8. Ely Miñés (Posted on 9-26-2022 at 11:14) Reply

    This was great!! My neighbours almost joined me in my laughter. Thanks.

  9. Rebekah W (Posted on 2-26-2024 at 09:25) Reply

    You can tell these were created by someone who’s spent real time in a classroom! Thanks for making my day.

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